COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Before last week’s midweek fixture against the New York Red Bulls, Ross LaBauex had been used this season only as a stopgap Colorado Rapids substitute, brought on late to disrupt the rhythm of play and ensure his team got the result they needed.
In fact, he’d logged just eight minutes in four games before head coach Gary Smith gave him the chance to start against the high-powered Red Bulls last Wednesday to show what he can do.
“The day of the game Gary just said, ‘Look I’m going to try to play in this formation, can you play in there?'” LaBauex said. “’Can you stay close to Andre [Akpan] and connect with him?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m good. As long as I can play, I’m good.'”
LaBauex then built on that performance to get another start in the 1-1 tie against Sporting Kansas City last Saturday. He went 78 minutes against the Red Bulls and for 73 against Sporting KC, his playing time suddenly ratcheted up to total 159 minutes for the season.
With Joseph Nane now out injured with a shoulder problem, Sanni Nyassi off on international duty with Gambia and some of the senior forwards coming back and perhaps relegating Quincy Amarikwa and Akpan to the bench, it is perhaps LaBauex who may be best placed to keep the pressure on for a starting spot or at least have a major impact off the bench.
“He did some very nice things,” Smith told MLSsoccer.com last weekend. “He ran himself into the ground and it was like his wheels had come off, but that energy and determination is a nice feature. He needs to tighten up on some of his technique and quality, but he’s had two good outings now and I am very pleased.”
That sort of comment from the coach can only help LaBauex as he continues to push for more playing time.
“My confidence is getting there,” LaBauex said. “It will be good to see what happens the rest of this long season.”